There’s no denying that the modern world isn’t designed for elderly people and often ignores their needs. Thus, it takes some individual initiative to enhance the lives of your loved ones and really help them achieve their greatest quality of life. Here are 17 things you can do to enhance elderly people’s lives, from hosting family events at their house to buying men’s adaptive clothing so they can continue to dress themselves:
Keep them engaged in family life.
Keeping elderly people engaged in the family takes extra effort — especially if they can’t travel anymore — but it’s essential for maintaining those family connections. Make an extra effort to visit elderly loved ones and to include them in family events. For instance, if leaving the house is hard for them, then host a family birthday party at their house rather than asking them to travel. If they live in a nursing home, then try to visit in person at least once per week and bring the kids when you can. This will make them feel loved and included even if they aren’t as mobile as they once were.
Stay in regular communication.
You should also make an effort to stay in regular communication with them outside of in-person visits. Keep in mind that every senior person has a different level of comfort with technology. Some may be perfectly happy to text and video call all day long, while others prefer a traditional phone call or even snail mail. If your loved one’s eyesight isn’t what it once was, they might benefit from getting a large button cell phone that they can operate more easily on their own, without having to peck at tiny smartphone buttons.
Encourage social interactions.
Maintaining family connections is important, but the family can’t fulfill everyone’s social needs. Unfortunately, many elderly people pull away from their friends and peers due to mobility issues, which can exacerbate feelings of loneliness. Encourage your loved one to revive old friends or make new ones through classes at community centers or activities at their retirement home. Offer to help with transportation to social gatherings, whether that’s driving them yourself or calling them an Uber or Lyft.
Stay physically active.
Staying physically active as you age is a major contributor to good health and will enhance elderly people’s lives. Even if your loved one has never been particularly active before, it’s never too late to get started. Going for daily walks is a great starting point. From there, they can work up to other forms of more aerobic cardio. Your elderly loved one should also aim to do two to three strength training sessions a week to help fight age-related bone and muscle loss. If they have health problems that make them concerned about exercising, talk to their doctor to get advice on what workouts they can and can’t do.
Keep mentally engaged as well.
Your body isn’t the only thing that needs a good workout — your mind does as well. Encourage your elderly loved one to do activities that will exercise their brain, whether that’s putting together a jigsaw puzzle, filling out a crossword or Sudoku puzzle, reading a nonfiction book or learning a new skill. There are many different ways to exercise your brain, so encourage them to keep experimenting until they find some activities that are fun and engaging, which will motivate them to make it a regular part of their routine.
Find purpose in retirement.
While some people look forward to the end of their full-time working life, other people get a lot of fulfillment in their jobs and struggle with retirement instead. If you miss your old job, then consider working part-time for another employer or starting your own small business from home. You can also work part-time in a consulting capacity in your former line of work or find other ways to turn your skills into freelance opportunities. Not only will this help you continue to find fulfillment through work, it will also help you bring in some income even though you are officially retired.
Volunteer for causes or charities.
If you don’t need to bring in money, but you still want to put your skills to use, then you might find a lot of fulfillment in volunteering for causes or charities that appeal to you. Believe it or not, many of these charities need help with all the same tasks that for-profit businesses do: accounting, operations, marketing, etc. Of course, they always need extra pairs of hands to sort through donations, run food drives, staff booths at fairs and more. Look up local charities in your area to see which ones appeal to you and reach out to them to see what kind of help they need.
Keep an eye on their mental health.
Physical health in older age gets a lot of attention, but many people neglect the importance of seniors’ mental health. Older people are vulnerable to depression, anxiety, isolation, loneliness and other mental health issues. Watch your loved one for signs of mental health decline and encourage them to speak to a therapist if they seem to be suffering from depression or anxiety. There are many treatment options available, including medication in addition to talk therapy. Some of the lifestyle changes on this list, such as exercising, will also contribute to positive mental health and enhance their lives as well.
Ready their home for aging in place.
Most homes are not designed with elderly people in mind, and they need some modifications to make them comfortable and safe for aging in place. Potential modifications include installing a stairlift, putting up grab bars in the bathroom and putting up motion-sensitive night lights. If your loved one’s home is not suitable for aging in place, then consider moving them into a new place sooner rather than later, as moving will only become more difficult as they age.
Make daily tasks easier.
Is your elderly loved one struggling to dress or cook for themselves? If so, they might not actually need help with these tasks, but just need items that are designed for older people with arthritis and other mobility issues. For example, buttons and other closures can be hard for older people to work by themselves. Switching them to men’s elastic waist pants or adaptive clothing for women means that they can keep dressing themselves even if “regular” clothes are no longer a possibility. This helps them maintain a measure of independence, promote better self-esteem and otherwise enhance elderly people’s lives.
Pursue new hobbies.
Now that you’re no longer working full-time, you have the chance to pick up a new hobby you’ve always wanted to try, or to devote more time to an old hobby you always had to leave on the back burner while you were working. Don’t be afraid to be a beginner again. Plenty of seniors are doing the exact same thing that you are, and many local studios and community centers offer classes specifically for seniors taking up a new hobby, whether that’s oil painting or coding. See if any of the shops or organizations in your area offer classes for seniors in the hobbies that you are interested in.
Spend time outside.
Spending time in nature is good for both your mental and physical health, so encourage your loved one to get outside. Getting outside can take many forms, whether that’s gardening in the backyard, picnicking in a local park or going for a hike on a nearby trail. Even if your loved one is wheelchair bound, you can probably find a park with accessible sidewalks and take them for an easy walk so they can enjoy the sunshine.
Take advantage of community events.
If you worked long hours before you retired, then chances are that you didn’t get out in the community as much as you could have. You might be surprised to learn how many events are offered in your local area: think free concerts, farmers markets, craft fairs, outdoor movie theaters and more. Many of these events are free or cheap to attend, which is a great option for retirees on a budget — especially if your loved ones can’t afford lavish international trips. Encourage them to be tourists in their own town and take advantage of what their community has to offer.
Get them the best healthcare possible.
Once your elderly loved ones retire, their insurance will probably change, which might necessitate a switch in providers. Even if their insurance doesn’t change right away, it might still make sense to seek out new doctors who specialize in geriatric populations and/or any health conditions your loved one has already been diagnosed with. You should also talk with your loved one about End of Life Directives and go ahead and draw one up while they are sound of mind and body. You can periodically update the directive if their wishes change, but it’s better to have one on file in case a worst case scenario arises.
Be smart about financial management.
Elderly people are especially vulnerable to scams and financial mismanagement. They may also forget to pay bills if they develop memory care issues. Educate them about how to protect themselves financially and check in regularly to make sure bills are being paid. If they have a financial portfolio, consider having a certified financial planner look over it to make sure that their money is being managed wisely. Similar to the End of Life Directive, you should also have your loved ones draw up a will and get it finalized so their wishes will be carried out when they finally pass.
Help only when they need it.
As your loved one ages, it’s tempting to swoop in and take everything off their plate at the first hint of struggle: hire a cleaning service, get meals for them delivered, take over their financial management, etc. While this may give you peace of mind, it can be a huge blow to the elderly person’s self-esteem and sense of independence. Instead, seek out compromises where you can that allows them to retain some sense of control. For instance, maybe you have cleaners come in twice a month to do a deep cleaning, but your loved one takes care of light housekeeping tasks in between visits.
Hire professional help if necessary.
Not every elderly person will be able to continue living independently, and not every family can provide the care they need. If your loved one is getting to the point where they need extra help, don’t be afraid to hire someone! There are many different levels of care to suit different levels of need, from a part-time home health aide who runs errands to round-the-clock private nursing care for complex medical issues. Hiring professional help could be key to your elderly loved one having the best quality of life possible as they age, so definitely look into this option if the time has come.
Follow these tips to enhance the lives of the elderly people you know and love. Ready to get them some adaptive clothing? Shop Silverts’ selection of adaptive clothing for both men and women and get free shipping on your U.S. order over $20!
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